Documenting 'The Underdog': Sharing the story of a quirky farmer in a race against time

Two years out of college, I suddenly find myself about to spend a month with a 65-year-old dairy farmer — and 24 dogs — in a truck, driving from Vermont to Alaska.

Well … it’s funny how things come full circle.

My first year at Middlebury College I took a class called adventure writing and digital storytelling. The course was simple — spend a month with an interesting local and tell their story. I wrote a few pages, shot a short (poorly executed) video and spent a lot of time with a wide-eyed, longhaired Vermont farmer who loved dog mushing. I was hooked. The class ended, but I continued to tell stories.

Fast-forward four years. I embark on the seminal post-college road trip with my roommate, Benji. We were Planet Forward explorers — off to discover innovations in America’s food system in a mom van. In the dead of winter and without a single lead, we tracked down, stumbled upon and connected with people — following their stories as they led us across the country. We met Tony in his teaching garden in New Orleans, Rachel as she tandem biked compost through Austin, and the Cooksley’s calves in the sand hills of Nebraska. The road trip opened my eyes to entire new landscapes and ways of life and inspired me to continue on my quest to be a lifelong storyteller.

Multiple food service jobs later, and a whole lot of moonlighting, and I’m finally, finally, working in film full time and producing my first long form documentary. The story? It’s about a dog mushing dairy farmer setting off on a cross-continent road trip.

Sound familiar?

This project is a culmination of a lot of things for me, but even more for farmer Doug Butler. Since milking his first cow on the evening of 1966, Doug hasn’t left the farm for more than a couple of days. In all that time he’s had the same dream — racing his sled dogs in the world championships in Alaska. Today, at the age of 65, he’s on the doorstep of that adventure, and I am honored to be tagging along to tell his story. 

I invite you to follow along on www.underdogfilm.org and humbly ask for your financial support in our Kickstarter effort to fund the trip to Alaska.

As Doug says, “You only live this life once, so let’s do something … let’s get ‘er done."

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.